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Northumberland Fusiliers (Sentences)

Volume 498: debated on Tuesday 8 April 1952

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18.

asked the Secretary of State for War what decision has been reached on the review of the court-martial sentences on Fusilier Taylor and other soldiers of the Northumberland Fusiliers in Korea.

19.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is now in a position to state the result of the review of the court-martial sentences on the 11 soldiers of the Northumberland Fusiliers in Korea.

This review was carried out on 28th March, when the superior military authority directed that the sentences should remain in execution and be reviewed again on 30th June.

I should like to ask the Secretary of State three questions. First of all, does he realise the acute disappointment which this decision will be to the parents of these boys? Secondly, how long are these periodical reviews to continue? Thirdly, what are the criteria upon which the summary military authority reached its decision?

I am aware that this decision will be a disappointment to the parents of the men concerned. These reviews are undertaken by the G.O.C., and I think it is right that he should be the authority to undertake them. The particular situation, and certain matters about which I have talked to the hon. Member concerning these men, have been communicated to the G.O.C., and he is aware of them.

These reviews will continue to take place at six-monthly intervals during the sentences. These men have served nine months out of their two-year sentences, and I do not think the hon. Member should despair of the hope that at some future date the decision will be favourable, though I cannot give an undertaking to that effect.

Is the Secretary of State aware that these lads had a first-class record up to this regrettable incident and that nothing at all has been done for them as a result of this review? Is he further aware that if these reviews are to be continued much longer, the men will have served their full sentences without any remission? Could the Secretary of State not convey to the authorities the civilian idea in some way and make it their duty to consider it?

I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that this offence was mutiny in the face of the enemy, which is a very serious offence. I would also point out to him that the particular fact that some of these men were extremely young National Service men who might have been influenced by older men into doing this has been represented to the G.O.C., and I think it is best to leave it to his judgment.

I have not got the facts before me, and I should not like to give a categorical undertaking; but I am almost certain that the particular charge was mutiny. I will communicate with the right hon. Gentleman further in the matter, but I am almost certain of that fact.